Lecture notes to accompany Campbell's Monomyth

By Lynn Lawrence,2014-04-10 18:21
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Lecture notes to accompany Campbell's Monomyth

Lecture notes to accompany Campbell's Monomyth

    from The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Call to Adventure

    On page 245, Campbell writes, “The mythological hero, setting forth from his [or her] commonday hut or

    castle, is lured, carried away, or else voluntarily proceeds, to the threshold of adventure."

It is important to note that the hero often resists the call.

    ; Human birth-involuntary (the gods have literally delivered you; you have no choice)

    ; Luke Skywalker-voluntary; although Han Soloa secondary hero in the storyis highly resistant

    ; Christ-he asks that “this cup might pass”

    ; Dorothy-involuntary; the tornado transports her across the threshold

    ; Bilbo-involuntary; Gandalf and the dwarves pull him into the adventure

    ; Superman-involuntary; His planet, Krypton, exploded, so he must fulfill his fate on Earth

Refusal of the Call

    On page 59, Campbell writes, “Often in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered: for it is always possible to turn the ear to other interests. Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative . . . [where] the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.”

    ; King Minos, even though he built an empire, was only able to “create new problems for himself and

    approach the gradual approach of his disintegration” (59).

    ; Apollo and Daphne. She will not “stop and ask who [her] lover is.” Instead she flees and is

    transformed into a tree.

    ; Sleeping Beauty-As everyone slept, “a hedge of thorns began to grow, which became taller every year,

    and finally shut off the whole estate. It grew up taller than the castle so that nothing more was seen,

    not even the weather cock on the roof” (63).

    ; Rapunzelis locked away and cannot go on her journey, so she becomes one who must be saved

    ; You can see that there is a bias here toward women. My theory is that, since women have traditionally

    been oppressed in Western Culture, that they haven’t been able to go on their journeys and instead

    become characters who must be saved.

    ; “Some of the victims remain spellbound forever . . .” Lot’s wife, who turned back and was changed into

    a pillar of salt. Eurydice, who had to remain in the Underworld because Orpheus looked back at her.


    According to Campbell, these are those who provide "magical” or “supernatural” aid to the hero. More specifically, the helpers encountered at this point in the journey are those who will help the hero cross the first major threshold.

Campbell writes: “For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero-journey is with a

    protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass” (69).

    ; Starts with midwife or physician who deliver child in the world

    ; Obi Wan, who, in the bar, helps Luke escape from a bad situation

    ; Judas-both a test and helper

    ; The Munchkins-help Dorothy onto the Yellow Brick Road

    ; Gandalf-helps Bilbo begin his adventure

    ; Lois Lane helps Superman

    ; Alfred helps Batman

Threshold Crossings

    “A symbolic passageway, usually represented as a common archetype such as a door or gate, or as some natural divider such as a river, lake, sea, mountain range or valley. Intrinsically, the threshold marks a place of transition, which leads from the land of what is real to the land of what is unreal (or from the waking world into the dream world).

    ; Emergence from womb at birth

    ; Bar scene in Star Wars

    ; Descension and Ascension of Christ

    ; Several for Bilbo

    ; Tornado in Wizard of Oz

    ; Phone Booth in Bill and Ted

    ; Sodium Pentathol in Flatliners

    ; Transporters in Star Trek movies

    ; Moses crossing the Red Sea

    ; Alice through the looking glass or rabbit hole

    ; Subtitle for the Hobbit: There and back again

    ; The stargate in Stargate

    ; Platform 9 ? in Harry Potter


    Under construction.


    ; Bilbo battles Smaug, a dragon

    ; Dragonslayer (with Sean Connery) is a movie about a dragon-battle that is eventually avoided

    (transcended) through communication between dragon and human. Both experience an expansion of

    consciousness through this communication and begin working together. A curious reinscription of the

    old form.


    ; Odyssey: Some characters have to leave things behind to enter the Underworld. This is dismemberment.

    ; Frodo of the nine fingers; he loses a finger during his quest

    ; Sir Gawain and the Green Night


    ; Jesus Christ is probably the most compelling example.

    ; In Dante’s “Paradiso,” the crucifixion represents not only agony but the essential peace that takes place

    around the event.


Under construction.

Night-Sea Journey

    ; Moses

    ; Harry Potter and the muggles leave to avoid Hagrid, but he finds them

Wonder Journey

    ; Odysseus is probably useful here. His entire journey is a wonder journey.

    ; The example of Sinbad and his Seven Voyages works well.

    ; Jason and the Argonauts

Whale's Belly

    ; Jonah

    ; Baron Munchausen and his crew are swallowed by a great fish

    ; Inanna, who must surrender all of her clothes=powers before she can go into the Underworld.

    ; Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewie are caught in the giant trash compactor, where a huge eel-type creature


    ; Pinocchio


    Campbell first mentions tests in terms of "a shadow presence that guards the passage" (245). However, the hero may encounter further "tests" which will "severely threaten him" (246).

    ; Bullies, disease, and other threats to human life

    ; The Empire and Darth Vader (Dark Father)

    ; 40 lashes, crown of thorns for Christ

    ; Obtaining the ruby slippers from the Wicked Witch of the West

    ; The quest for the ring, Gollum

    ; Phoenix Jackson in A Worn Path

Additional Helpers

    These additional helpers are those who help the hero overcome various tests along the hero's path. Campbell marks the most significant hurdle of the journey at the "nadir of the mythological round." At this point, the hero experiences a "supreme ordeal and gains his reward" (246). These helpers assist us through our "supreme ordeals."

    ; Family and Friends

    ; Obi Wan Kenobi

    ; Veronica & Simon

    ; Scarecrow/Tin Woodsman/Lion

    ; Gollum & Aragorn

Sacred Marriage

    ; Munchausen and Venus (Uma Thurman) during their sacred dance (he even calls it a "moment of


Father Atonement

    ; Christ becoming one with the Heavenly Father

    ; Luke coming to know his own father, Darth Vader

    ; This is a reconciliation of self


    ; Christ is not only unified with his Father, he himself becomes God within the Holy Trinity.

    ; Batman becomes god-like

Elixir Theft

    According to Campbell, this involves the "theft of the boon he [the hero] came to gain" (246). I define the elixir as the outward sign of the inward change.

    ; Souvenirs and photographs

    ; Freedom from oppression

    ; The eternal life offered by Christ

    ; Safety from evil

Expansion of Consciousness

    Campbell: "intrinsically, it is an expansion of consciousness and therewith of being" (246). For me, this is the entire point of the heroic journey. If nothing is gained or learned, the hero becomes a comic figure (Tim Taylor from Home Improvement, the Three Stooges). For the comic character, nothing will change. Nothing will be gained.

    The expansion of conscious can take the shape of a slow, building series of recognitions, such as those of Oedipus, or it can be sudden, as when Luke discovers the identity of his true father. Or it can be more reflectively experiential, such as visiting a new place and then incorporating that experience into your frame of reference.

    ; Luke learns to use the Force

    ; Christ becomes God

    ; Dorothy learns that she had the power to get back to Kansas "all the time."


    Campbell: The final work is that of the return. If the powers have blessed the hero, he now sets forth under their protection (emissary); if not, he flees and is pursued" (246).

    ; Humans know what it means to flee

    ; Luke Skywalker is pursued by Imperial Soldiers

    ; Bilbo is pursued by Orcs, etc. Indiana Jones

    ; Monty Python and the Holy Grail: "Run Away! Run Away!"

    ; Satan from Paradise Lost?


    Under construction


    Under construction


    Under construction

Threshold Struggle

Under construction


Bilbo battles Smaug, a dragon

Christ is crucified

    Jonah is caught in the belly of the whale

    Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewie are caught in the trash compactor

Overall readings

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

    Star Wars



    Alice in Wonderland

    The Getaway

    Christ's Bible scenes

    The Hobbit

    The Wizard of Oz

    Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure


    Star Trek episodes

    Vacations as mini-journeys Home Improvement, with Tim as comic hero The Three Stooges as comic heroes Northern Exposure episodes

    City Slickers

    Nissan Commercials (Boy and Baseball/GI Joe and Barbi)


    The Seven Sacraments of Catholicism Baptism/First Confession/First Communion/Confirmation/Marriage/Priesthood/Last Rights (Are these correct?)

    Birth Rituals

    Wedding Rituals

    Moving Rituals

    Sex/Mating Rituals






Story Telling/Oral Tradition

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